"A hand-drawn map of Disneyland by Walt Disney himself is about to become available," by ABC News
"The map, which is being touted as the 'first-ever' diagram of the park, is being offered for sale," by Observer.com
"In 1954, the map was enhanced with additional black outlines and color as well as new sketches within hte [sic] landscape to be used ass [sic] the main promotional image for the park leading up to Disneyland's 1955 opening," by the Orlando Sentinel.
You also might have noticed that we haven't written anything about this map here on Theme Park Insider. That's because this story just didn't smell right to me when it started appearing online. The original concept map of Disneyland, hand-drawn by Herb Ryman in 1953, sits safely in the archives of Walt Disney Imagineering. It's not for sale and likely never will be. So what is this?
A post on the Facebook page of Friends of the Walt Disney Family Museum provides some insight: "This is simply a large-format photostat or brownline of Herb Ryman's original drawing.... Dozens of these were made to pitch the Park to investors and participants."
Ryman's original was drawn in pencil on vellum. It's not exactly the sort of thing one rolls up and takes on an airplane. Nor was the original inked and colored, as this map has been.
A representative of Van Eaton Galleries, which is managing the sale of the map, replied to the Facebook post, defending the importance of the item for sale but acknowledging that the map is not a Walt-drawn original as some news reports have claimed. "The vellum pencil drawing was used to transfer the line work to this map, which was then hand colored, inked, mounted to a presentation board, and taken to New York by Roy Disney to pitch to ABC."
What I haven't been able to find is if any other reproductions of Ryman's original were made for other pitches leading up to the start of construction at Disneyland. Additional copies in circulation, obviously, would affect the value of piece.
Clearly, this is an impressive piece of Disney memorabilia, but as a Disney fan and someone who covers theme parks for a living, it's maddening to see bad information get such wide coverage.
The Walt Disney Company generally does an excellent job of archiving its historical artifacts. So if you ever see a story about a "one of a kind" or "original" piece of Disney history coming up for sale, crank your skepticism up a notch. Truly significant one-of-a-kind originals of Disney history are almost certainly locked up in Disney's archives. That doesn't mean that you can't find some rare and valuable pieces of Disney history out there on the market. Just be wary of superlative claims.
And if you read or hear about something supposedly hand-drawn by Walt, get really skeptical. If the piece is large, impressive, or production quality, it's almost certainly not from the hand of Walt, who famously couldn't drawn very well. Instead, Walt hired amazing artists to depict his visions, such as Ub Iwerks for Disney's early animation work and Ryman for theme park concepts.
One of the dirty secrets of the news industry is how many stories are simply regurgitated press releases. And worse, how many stories contain errors created by the attempt of writers — with no experience or training in the topic they are covering — to make their stories simpler and more appealing to a wide audience. My wife, who runs Violinist.com, just addressed a similar clusterbunk of coverage from major news organizations on her beat this week, too. But I suppose I should look on the bright side. The more errors that big news outlets make, the more opportunity they create for people like us to correct them. (Smile)
So there ya go. That's the story on the Disneyland map you might have read so much about this week.Tweet
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